We’ve all entered a friend’s home full of little kids and their stuff–play-gyms, riding contraptions, toy trucks and cars, dolls and toddler-size kitchen equipment, costumes, stuffies, puzzle pieces, bikes and baseball bats, Legos and library books long overdue. Sometimes we even sit on a sofa whose cushions hide yesterday’s kids’ snacks. It wasn’t easy being a mom of several toddlers! Nor was it easy to be the mom of teens either! These people we’ve brought into this world cause us a lot of work and worry–and, also, great joy and lessons learned.
When the clutter and chaos is in your own home how do you deal with it? Certainly, fuming at those we love accomplishes nothing. You can firmly order a child to pick up his toys or clean his room day after day with no good outcome. You can punish him or take away his “privileges”. All this does is infuriate everyone, including you.
On a calm afternoon you might choose to sit down and read together and after finishing a book that is one of his or her favorite selections, you might have a conversation about putting the book away on the shelf where it belongs so it can be found next time it’s needed. You might continue the conversation by asking, “Where would be the best place to keep dolly’s clothes or the 27 matchbox cars that often disappear?” Bit by bit a sense of order will trickle into a toddler’s thinking–or even a teen’s. And when each item finds its proper place, let the praise flow: “Wow! How beautiful and orderly your room looks! It makes me so happy!” A kiss and hug to follow.
You might set up a duty roster so each child knows what is expected of him–just keep it simple and not too demanding. Rewards are not necessary. Your child has the privilege of having a happy home; his part in this privilege includes his taking care of his share of it.
Once I had a roster of simple duties for my two sons when they were about 6 and 7. Things were going pretty well. I told them they could expect a visit from the “Room Fairy” (kind of like the tooth fairy) any day now. “What’s a “Room Fairy, Mom?” “Oh, you’ll see when she arrives. She has a check list to see how you’ve done with your room. She’ll surprise us one day with a visit.” Their curiosity increased as a couple days passed and they continued to keep their room in super order. Then, with a knock at the front door one afternoon, she arrived.
The boys opened the door and burst into uncontrollable laughter. Before them stood the “Room Fairy” dressed in a pale blue sequined evening gown with a gold lame scarf wrapped around her teased head of hair, with rosy cheeks and super-red lipstick, heavy boots, a clipboard and pen in her hand. She talked fast in a high-pitched voice as she asked the still cackling boys if she could see their room. As you may have guessed, the “Room Fairy” was me. I’d dressed and snuck out the back door without them seeing me, circling around to the front door. Never out of character, I inspected the boys’ room carefully and gave them an excellent rating. The boys laughed for days. And today, as grown men, both boys and their wives keep beautiful homes (no fairies needed).
Once when my children were no longer at home, I was asked to take care of a relative’s seven children while they were traveling abroad for a week. Clutter is an understatement for what I found! But we conquered it through creativity–duty sign-up sheets, fun inspections, delicious celebratory meals–I even roasted a turkey and gave little gifts at a decorated table for an unexpected “Christmas in July”. At times I literally had to demonstrate how to clean a floor or scrub a bathroom right along with the child assigned to the task. They learned something; I didn’t do the work for them nor did I scold if one balked. My goal was simply to teach them how to do a job well. We kept at it until clean rooms and laundry were accomplished.
With your own clutter you might pick a single room to straighten, and praise yourself for getting it done. Don’t let stuff gather, not even your car keys and mail. Make Put it away now your mantra–like a little song in your head. Once you’ve improved a single room, take on a second, then a third–but not all three in one day. Do a quality job, one to be proud of. Don’t rush or overdo. Why not play your favorite music while you organize? You might sing and dance things into their right places! Create bags to give to others or to throw out, or pile items that only need a little repair to have new life and purpose.
Beautiful order is the goal. I say beautiful order because we cannot live happily without beauty. Too often it is neglected but it really isn’t that hard to do. That fresh bouquet of wild flowers you put on the kitchen table and the other one beside your bed will make you smile every time you see them. And while perhaps unacknowledged, any touch of beauty will be appreciated by those who live in or visit your home. In fact, beauty, once observed, is contagious. Your children will want to make things beautiful the more they see it expressed by you.
So what might you organize beautifully today?
About the Artwork: This bouquet of fresh flowers came as a birthday gift sent to me by one of my sons. It was so gorgeous I had to paint it immediately! And I smile every time I see this painting in my gallery.